Jamaal Charles owners: How to replace your stud running back

If you lost Jamaal Charles on Sunday, you don’t have a lot of options. He was your first round pick, and unless you play in a very small league, it’s unlikely you have someone else of Charles’ caliber on your roster to pick up the slack.

You also aren’t going to find many first-round quality players on the waiver wire. So at this point, you are left with the desperation options.

It’s time to beg, borrow, cheat, or steal.

One note before we start — you don’t have to do these in this order. Begging is for the worst off of the Charles’ owners, but all of us could benefit from “stealing,” even if we didn’t lose Charles. In fact, “stealing” is probably a good place to start for the majority of you. That’s why I put it at the end…

BEG

A trade is the fastest way to fix your roster when you face a catastrophic injury like losing Charles. You won’t ever have as strong a team as you had before, but just like getting burned on a bad investment, you have to take stock of what you have, package your assets, and sell off what you can to improve your net worth (in this case, your team).

Now I’m assuming you’re in dire straits without Charles. You might not have another running back capable of even RB2-quality production. Maybe you were rotating a stream of flex-level running backs in alongside Charles. Maybe the only other stud on your roster was your top-5 quarterback.

If you can field a respectable roster in Week 3 without Charles, hold off and move on to the less drastic strategies below. But if you’re rocking back and forth in the fetal position while screaming “Jamaaaaaal. WHY?!?,” stay with me here…

Hopefully, you drafted some good depth at at least one position. It’s probably safe to assume it’s not running back, so let’s pretend you have a little extra talent at quarterback or wide receiver.

It’s time to start talking to every owner in your league who has a hole at wide receiver or quarterback and a running back worth starting every week. Package what you have and shop it.

Start your negotiations by making a reasonable offer, but if that goes south, beg. Beg like you’re life depended on it. Play the pity card, and maybe someone will grant you a chance at their prize running back.

Target the owners of Chris Johnson, Steven Jackson, Arian Foster, and Shonn Greene, who may be disappointed in what they’ve brought to the box score so far. You don’t have the luxury of being disappointed in them. You just need high-ceiling starters.

Chris Johnson would be the first player I’d target. Foster or Jackson might come at a discount since they are currently injured, and Greene owners might be convinced that he won’t rise to the occasion this season either.

For the right price, I’d take a chance at Greene.

Float your starting-quality backup quarterback out there packaged alongside one of your WR2 or WR1-level wide receivers. If you feel good enough about your QB2, try offering your stud-level starter to the guy that drafted Peyton Manning.

It’s a great time to trade Matthew Stafford to the highest bidder if you smartly drafted a quality alternative in case Stafford didn’t make it a full 16 games. Maybe you’ll miss out on his breakout season, but you could end up with a fantasy stud to replace what you lost in Charles.

BORROW

If trading for a stud or potential stud doesn’t work, it’s time to look at the lesser options and “borrow.”

You’re not actually borrowing in this situation. You’re still trading, but you’re looking at the potential to upgrade this player down the road.

If left with no other options, go ahead and look at trading depth for depth. Maybe you could deal a backup tight end, WR3, or your backup quarterback to give yourself some more depth at running back.

Nabbing someone like Joseph Addai, Marshawn Lynch, C.J. Spiller, or Ryan Grant could still prove valuable. Don’t write anyone off. But don’t take any terrible deals either just to add a running back to your squad. You have to get a decent value for the package you put together. A bad trade would pretty much sink your season.

You might try to sneak a deal for a promising up-and-comer.

Make a play for Ben Tate whose owner may not need his opportunistic play for the next several weeks while Foster heals up as much as you could. Look for James Starks, who is rising in Green Bay. Maybe the rest of your league hasn’t noticed yet. Finally, it pays off to have a guy in your league who lives under a rock!

While getting a running back out of the deal would be preferred, it’s okay to consider a trade that upgrades your other positions. Anything that improves your team will help, and maybe that additional strength at quarterback or wide receiver could be turned into running back depth at a later date.

While you might not start these running backs right away or have no need for the additional depth at another position, these players are good to have. You can hold onto them for now, start them when they have decent matchups, and maybe somewhere down the road, they’ll have a big enough game for you to deal them again.

On that next trade, that’s when you might land a stud to replace Charles.

CHEAT

Okay, I realize most people don’t want to cheat. But some do. And I feel it’s my duty to cover this even if I don’t wholeheartedly endorse it. In fact, I’ll despise you if you pull it off. But hey, we’re in it to win it. So here goes…

This one’s the hard one. You might not have a chance at swindling an owner in your league, and even if you do, you might not get this trade past the rest of the owners in your league. But…rumors and misinformation might be a decent way to get a fantasy starter off another owner.

All it takes is a text, presumed to be a forward from Twitter, with “RT @AdamSchefter” in front, and you could have another owner thinking they need to sell high. (Kidding, of course. Who would do that?)

Haven’t you always wanted to be “that guy?”

You could make a play for Matt Forte by talking up Marion Barber’s upcoming return and his ability to vulture every touchdown from Forte the rest of the way. It is possible, even if it’s not probable. So it’s not a lie, MOM!

Sure, you still have to worry that it comes true, in some part, but Forte’s a decent recovery from losing Charles.

Steven Jackson owners might be willing to believe he’ll never be healthy again this season. He looked slow in the first game of the season, didn’t he? Might as well get a decent value for him rather than deal with his questionable status all season long.

Ryan Mathews certainly isn’t going to get enough touches to be worth anything in San Diego. So what if every analyst out there seems to believe he’s the better back. Tolbert is clearly the guy that’s going to get all the fantasy points, right?

Use rumors and speculation to your advantage, and you just might “negotiate” your way into a nice consolation prize.

But yes, if you pull this off, several people in your league will call you out for it. You’ll be cursed for the rest of the season, and you probably won’t even make it to the championship game due to karma. All wins have their price.

STEAL

There’s not going to be a lot on the waiver wire, but there’s enough. Now that you’ve lost Charles, it’s time to take everything you can and “steal” value for free off the wire.

First, your Kansas City replacements. Unfortunately, they’ll cost the most and probably produce the least.

Thomas Jones + Dexter McCluster + Le’Ron McClain

I covered this in this week’s waiver wire post, but Jones probably assumes the lead back duties here. He’s not exciting; in fact, he’s looked totally finished so far this season. But he’s the guy listed second on the depth chart, and he’s likely to get the goal line looks, at least initially.

Jones is the running back I’d try to pickup first, but don’t break the bank to get him. He’s not worth it, especially with how lackluster the Chiefs offense has been thus far. Thomas Jones is not going to spark anything for them.

Dexter McCluster’s been used as a gadget guy by the Chiefs and has gotten more touches than Jones so far this year up until Charles was injured. With his ability to act as a receiver or running back (not to mention his eligibility as both a WR and RB on some fantasy sites), McCluster may actually see the most productive touches in Charles’ absence. He’ll also come at a lower cost than Jones if you’re having to bid on McCluster in a FAAB.

The dark horse in this is Le’Ron McClain. We’ve seen him take more than his fair share of the work during his time in Baltimore, and now he’s in the mix in Kansas City.

Jones is old, and McCluster is undersized. So the bulk of the workload could easily land in McClain’s lap. Again, he’s not going to blow the doors off anyone, but he could be productive if the Chiefs pick themselves up off the floor.

Assuming you miss out on Jones and McCluster, stash McClain. You never know.

And here’s where the real stealing comes in. If you have the roster space, I’d claim every single decent handcuff back still on waivers that you can. That list includes Deji Karim in Jacksonville, Kendall Hunter in San Francisco, Delone Carter in Indy, and Michael Bush in Oakland.

Bush and Carter have carved a role of sorts on their offenses for now with the potential to do more, especially if there’s an injury. Hunter’s not getting a lot of touches, but he certainly looks like he could do plenty with them after leading the league in rushing during the preseason. And Karim will continue to protect Maurice Jones-Drew’s long-term health by taking a few touches each week until MJD suffers a setback or another injury.

If they’re out there, I’d go get Willis McGahee, who could end up winning John Fox’s favor if Moreno can’t stay healthy, and LaDainian Tomlinson, who still might be the most productive back on the Jets, first.

You’re goal with these backups is to be first in line to benefit when the next devastating injury hits fantasy owners. And in the meantime, you can tell your tale of woe over a campfire to the rest of your league to scare them into trading you for their own handcuff.

It’s not going to make you any friends, but this strategy is an act of desperation.

And if you can’t “steal” your way back into fantasy relevance, well…you better start trolling the waiver wire and maximizing every spot on your roster. You’re going to need every point you can get the rest of the way.

RIP Jamaal’s ACL. Pour some out for your homies’ knees. And fingers crossed this doesn’t happen to any other first-round picks this season.

http://youtu.be/dqHKf5NuVtg

And seriously, what’s going on in KC? Charles is their third ACL tear this season.

On the Waiver Wire: Week 7 Pickups and Who is Danario Alexander?

Week 6 dropped a few gifts into our lap as a result of recent injuries and trades, which comes at a very opportune time in the midst of bye weeks

I normally do a little digging on players I list on the waiver wire in order to assess their potential. Sometimes I share a little tidbit of this info, but I rarely go into great detail. In one case today, I think it’s necessary, so I went the extra mile on the Rams latest prospect. I think you’ll see that the background of this wideout makes him an even more appealing grab than his stat line on Sunday would attest.

You may not have seen the Rams’ game on Sunday, but I think this is name you’ll want to remember.

Danario Alexander, WR, St. Louis Rams

Let me introduce you to Mr. Alexander, the actual beneficiary of Mark Clayton’s absence who stole our hearts Sunday with four catches for 72 yards and a touchdown.

Alexander had an injury-plagued college career at Missouri, which included two ACL surgeries and a wrist surgery, but when he was able to stay on the field for his entire senior season, he amassed 1,781 yards and 14 touchdowns and had the most receiving yards per game in FBS football in 2009. [Source: Wikipedia]

Unfortunately, Alexander suffered another injury the week of the Senior Bowl and had to have surgery in February 2010, which prevented him from showing his skills to any pro teams prior to the 2010 NFL Draft.

So, with concerns about his heatlh, he went undrafted, but the Rams thought enough of him to bring Alexander in and develop him as a project. When he didn’t make the team due to his health, the Rams placed him on the practice squad to rest up and continue to devlop for the long-term.

After the final roster cuts, Alexander began the year on the practice squad and worked on strengthening his left leg. The problem wasn’t the left knee per se, the one that has been operated on four times. It was atrophy in the muscles around that knee — particularly the quad muscle. The left quad was smaller than the right, and the fear was that Alexander might suffer an injury compensating.

It just so happened that his left leg size, measured by the St. Louis staff throughout his recovery, got up to par with his right leg just this week and just in time for him to contribute in the absence of Mark Clayton, who was knocked out for the season with an knee injury in Week 5.

Of note, the Rams signed Alexander to the active roster prior to Week 6 with a four-year deal. That’s pretty good for someone who wasn’t even drafted and unusual for a guy signed off the practice squad. But it just reveals how much the Rams want to hold onto this guy. They may not have given him much money, but they’re fully invested in making him a part of this young franchises budding offense.

You probably know the rest of the story. Alexander went to work immediately with the first-team offense in practice and took the field for his first NFL game in Week 6 (after proving he could play by doing standing back-flip, of course).

His impressive, out-of-nowhere day gives us some idea of what he’s capable of as a top target for Sam Bradford. He’s got the physical tools that no other Rams’ wide receiver can offer — size and speed. He’s on par with Jahvid Best in the speed department.

Some fantasy owners might shy away from him because this was just one performance…by a rookie…against a Chargers defense that was unprepared for him. The defense had no film on him. (They certainly do now.)

But I’m not afraid to go after Alexander on the waiver wire this week, even with reports that his knee was a little sore after the game. He’s the potential No. 1 on an offense that throws the ball a lot more than any of us expected the Rams to this year. He’s shown a commitment to the game and his craft as a receiver, and he’s won the favor of his coaches enough for them to shove him straight into the first-team offense off of the practice squad.

If he starts looking like the Danario Alexander that scored 14 touchdowns in 2009 for Missouri, I want a piece of that. So Danario Alexander is my No. 1 recommendation off the waiver wire this week.

If you need a WR3 with WR2 upside, go get him. He could be the Sidney Rice of 2010.

Danny Woodhead, WR/RB, New England Patriots

I mentioned Woodhead just before the Patriots went on bye when the Jets’ favorite little running back first became a part of the Patriots’ offense. After the bye week and with the Randy Moss-less offense, he looks to be an every week contributor for the Pats. As an added bonus, depending on which site you use to manage your league, you may be able to take advantage of him as a wide receiver. I’d take Woodhead over most WR3s on the board so go get him if no one else has discovered this loophole yet.

Chris Ivory, RB, New Orleans Saints

He ran hard on Sunday, possibly hard enough to earn a role even after Pierre Thomas returns. Clearly, he’s the best back to own in New Orleans until then, but don’t count on him to be a factor all season long. Ivory will have to learn how to share with both Thomas and Reggie Bush when they are both back to 100 percent.

Deion Branch, WR, New England Patriots

Did you see Belichick run over to hug Branch after the game? It seems that Brady and Belichick really wanted Branch. They love Branch, and while he might not score every week, he should remain a pivotal part of this New England offense. We know New England’s game plan changes every week, but Branch should be owned in every league. He looks like a great WR3 to start for the rest of the season.

Nate Burleson, WR, Detroit Lions

It never hurts to play second fiddle to Calvin Johnson, and we know the Lions are going to be playing from behind a lot this season and forced to throw. Burleson is a decent WR3 and borderline WR2 for the rest of the year as long as he keeps taking advantage of his opportunities by getting in the end zone.

James Starks, RB, Green Bay Packers

The Packers felt comfortable rolling with what they had at running back after Ryan Grant went on IR because they knew Starks was on his way back to the active roster. He still needs time to work his way into the offense, but if you’re hurting at running back, you might as well stash him now. He may not unseat Brandon Jackson for the starting job, but he could end up stealing touches and fantasy points from the Green Bay ground game. There aren’t a lot of those to go around the way the Packers have been passing the ball this season.

Before you go grabbing Starks to put on your bench, make sure you grab the “instant gratification” stashes first like LeGarrette Blount.

LeGarrette Blount, RB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Speaking of Blount, I mentioned him so I might as well note that Kareem Huggins and Earnest Graham were injured in Week 6. The door is wide open for Blount to contribute on the field against the Rams in Week 7, and I don’t think that Cadillac will stop him from carving out a role in this offense once he gets started. The only potential setback for Blount is that he still needs to learn how to pick up the blitz and protect Josh Freeman.

Derrick Ward, RB, Houston Texans

Arian Foster, you have been Kubiak-ed. The Texans coach now says Ward has earned a larger role in the offense moving forward. That probably just means a few touches here and there, but he will get the chance to score every now and then like he did on Sunday. Pick him up if you own Foster or if you just another warm body at running back.

More fantasy football waiver wire goodness from around the Web:

Believe it or not: Kevin Kolb, Matt Cassel teammates benefit and More Scoring Leaders from Week 6

Each week, “Believe it or not” highlights those fantasy football studs (or mistakes) who score over 20 points in ESPN standard scoring and whether we can trust them to ever do it again.

The Kansas City Chiefs might have contributed more this week to the fantasy football community than they will all year, but it was nice that knowing how to properly spell Cassel’s last name finally paid off.

Kevin Kolb, QB, Eagles: 326 yards, 3 TDs, 1 INT vs. Falcons

And Michael Vick is still the starter when he gets back? I think that’s not as clear cut as it used to be, Mr. Reid. It just might be time for another emergency press conference in Philly.

Jeremy Maclin, WR, Eagles: 7 catches for 159 yards, 2 TDs vs. Falcons

Kolb was so good on Sunday, he made his receiver one of the top scorers as well, and Maclin was just one of the two wide receivers he hit twice for touchdowns. Like I said, is it time to think twice about sitting Kolb and going back to a probably-not-100-percent Michael Vick? QB-by-rotation maybe? You know you’re thinking about it, Andy.

Let’s play a little game of “One of these things is not like the others.”

Drew Brees, QB, Saints: 263 yards, 3 TDs, 1 INT vs. Bucs
Tony Romo, QB, Cowboys: 220 yards, 3 TDs, 2 INTs vs. Vikings
Ben Roethlisberger, QB, Steelers: 257 yards, 3 TDs, 1 INT vs. Browns
Matt Cassel, QB, Chiefs: 201 yards, 3 TDs vs. Texans
Matt Schaub, QB, Texans: 305 yards, 2 TDs,  vs. Chiefs
Aaron Rodgers, QB, Packers: 313 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT, 1 rushing TD vs. Dolphins
Joe Flacco, QB, Ravens: 285 yards, 2 TDs vs. Patriots
Peyton Manning, QB, Colts: 307 yards, 2 TDs vs. Redskins

Most of these quarterbacks are current or sometimes members of the elite–Brees, Romo, Big Ben (elite lady skills!), Schaub, Rodgers, and Manning. The real shocker isn’t how they produced this week but who ended up among them, Matt Cassel. The rightfully mocked Chiefs quarterback actually took advantage of the soft Texans matchup…but that only means people will believe in him enough to start him in Week 7 against the Jaguars.

I have my doubts Cassel will ever do it again, but if he is going to, it will be against the Jaguars, who have been the Dr. Jekyll-Mr. Hyde of the NFL this season.

Dwayne Bowe, WR, Chiefs: 6 catches for 108 yards, 2 TDs vs. Texans

If given a quarterback, Bowe showed us in Week 6 that he still knows where the scoring happens (in the end zone). He made the Texans look bad, but they do a pretty good job of that each week with their passing defense. His fantasy value lives and dies by Cassel’s ability to get him the ball. You might take advantage of a big Week 5 (and possibly Week 6 against Jacksonville) to shop Bowe for someone a little more consistent. In other words, sell high.

Ryan Torain, RB, Redskins: 100 yards, 2 TDs vs. Colts

I shed a silent tear Sunday night as I watched Torain rampage all over the Colts defense. I chose to start Michael Bush over him. Thanks again, Jason Campbell, for ruining the few things that were pure and good about that Oakland offense this week. Torain is the man in Washington, probably even after Clinton Portis returns from injury (if he ever does, that is). But feel free to sell high if you made out like a champ by snagging him on the waiver wire.

Arian Foster, RB, Texans: 71 yards, 2 TDs vs. Chiefs

Oh, and Foster’s back at it even with Derrick Ward taking a score of his own. I think it’s safe to say he’s going to keep doing this. He’s only had one truly bad week and that came against the Giants revitalized defense.

Believe it or not: T.O., L.T. not done yet, Arian Foster only needs three quarters, and more Week 4 top scores

Last week’s top scores featured some pretty normal names. I thought this feature might be getting boring…so, of course, this week was full of surprises.

Arian Foster, RB, Texans: 131 rushing yards, 1 TD and 3 catches for 56 yards, 1 TD

Yeah…that guy again. Foster was benched for the entire first quarter for missing one team meeting and being late to another, and he still scored the most fantasy points on Sunday. If you’re a Foster owner, never complain about a loss. You have no excuse.

Terrell Owens, WR, Bengals: 10 catches for 222 yards, 1 TD

Take away the long bomb that T.O. caught just as the corner covering him fell down and these numbers aren’t quite as impressive. T.O. benefits from playing opposite Chad Ochocinco, and Carson Palmer doesn’t seem like he’s ever going to turn back into the top quarterback he used to be.

I’m not saying that T.O. won’t keep producing these kinds of numbers. He is likely to rack up 100+ yards in a few more games this season, but I’m not in love with him long-term. He could just as easily disappear off the radar next week, never to be seen again.

David Garrard, QB, Jaguars: 163 passing yards, 2 passing TDs and 44 rushing yards, 1 rushing TD

Even in the worst of times for the Jaguars, Garrard manages to put up stats against the Colts. This big day may make up for his team’s shortcomings the first three weeks, but don’t be fooled into thinking he’s a solid fantasy quarterback. You never know when he will show up and when he won’t. Garrard is a risky bye week fill right now and that’s it.

LaDainian Tomlinson, RB, Jets: 133 yards, 2 TDs and 3 catches for 22 yards

There was a lot of excitement around L.T.’s numbers this Sunday, but keep in mind that these stats were against the Bills. While he’s holding his own as the No. 1 back in New York right now, I doubt L.T. will be able to sustain this kind of production all season long. He has gotten up there in age and carries, and this game was his first 100+ yarder in two years. If you can sell him high to the Shonn Greene owner, I would.

Shaun Hill, QB, Lions: 331 passing yards, 2 TDs, 2 INTs and 53 rushing yards

The Lions got behind big in this one, but they did fight back admirably. Hill’s numbers just show you how nice it is to have Calvin Johnson to catch passes for you. Lucky for Megatron and the Detroit Lions, Stafford should be back soon, and when he returns, these Lions’ quarterback numbers could get even better.

And the usual suspects who also showed up big for their owners this week: Antonio Gates, Peyton Manning, Kyle Orton, Aaron Rodgers, and Maurice Jones-Drew.

By the way, if you saw Kyle Orton in the “usual suspects” just now and found that odd, let me just say that Kyle Orton is for real. He had another 300+ yards against the Titans, who were looking like a fairly stout passing defense this season. Orton is going to have to carry this team, especially with all the injuries in the running game. Look for him to remain a quality QB1 starter.

Believe it or not: Arian Foster, Hakeem Nicks and More Top Scorers from Week 1

If you played against Arian Foster this week, you lost. This rule applies to Peyton Manning. But what should we expect in Week 2?

Arian Foster: 231 yards, 3 TDs, 1 pass for 7 yards

Believe It – Foster came up big in Week 1 for the owners who jumped on his sleeper bandwagon. This week’s performance even makes drafting him as a No. 2 running back, and not the sleeper he was this offseason, reasonable. Will he repeat a performance like this? Maybe when he faces the Colts’ miserable run defense again in Week 8. But until then, expect him to hold down the RB2 spot on your team just fine.

If you want a Foster on your roster (yeah, I just said that), wait a few weeks. He faces the Redskins and the Cowboys in Week 2 and 3, which should chip away at his epic Week 1 performance and make his owner’s asking price a big more reasonable. The price won’t go down after Foster blows up the Raiders in Week 4, and there are a few more nice matchups for Foster in the chewy center of the Texans schedule.

Matt Forte: 50 yards, 7 passes for 151 yards and 2 TDs

Believe It – Another popular sleeper candidate makes the list this week. We spent all offseason trying to figure out which Bears’ receiver would benefit the most from the new offensive system by Mike Martz. Turns out, it was Forte in Week 1. It was worrisome that he had trouble punching one in on Sunday, but we’ll have to hope that improves. For now, just be glad he’s a big part of the passing game in this mad scientist system. Expect a few more weeks in which he looks like the Forte of old (2008) and makes for a very nice RB2.

David Garrard: 16-of-21 for 170 yards and 3 TDs

Not Buying It – It’s hard to believe that the Jags won through the air with Maurice Jones-Drew in the backfield and when facing Champ Bailey and the Broncos…but they did. Garrard did throw primarily to his tight end Marcedes Lewis, who scored on both his touches.

Needless to say, when the Jaguars defense doesn’t get them the prime field position they benefited from against the Broncos, Garrard will have a more difficult time putting up these kinds of numbers, and Garrard doesn’t have many pushover secondaries on his schedule. Fool me twice before I believe in you, Garrard.

Marcedes Lewis: 2 passes for 31 yards and 2 TDs

Not Buying It - It certainly is efficient to score on both your touches in one game, but it doesn’t lead me to believe you’ll do it again. Lewis may have improved this offseason and may now be the red zone target in the Jaguars offense, but that still doesn’t mean his next 31 yards will get him into the end zone. Don’t jump on this bandwagon just yet. Plenty of talent at tight end this year anyway.

Hakeem Nicks: 4 passes for 75 yards and 3 TDs

Believe It – Nicks was supposed to be the guy that replaced Plaxico Burress in the Giants offense. In Week 1, he did. He wasn’t the most targeted receiver on the field (Steve Smith), and he didn’t get the most yardage (Mario Manningham). But he did get all the scores against a passing defense that kept a tight lid on wide receivers last season. Without Kevin Boss (injured Sunday) in the lineup, Nicks is the lone big man in the passing game.

I was a big fan of the Giants’ Steve Smith last season, but this season, all bets are off in the passing game as long as Nicks stays healthy. Eli Manning now has three excellent receivers to target, and Nicks could end up with the most points at the end of the day because he’s the easiest to hit in the end zone. Get him on your roster if you want to play the receiver lottery with the Giants this season. Eli Manning might just show us that last year wasn’t just a fluke.

Austin Collie: 10 passes for 131 yards and a TD

Not Buying It - Collie got most of his yardage on just one play for a touchdown, and even though I expect him to be a regular weapon in the Colts’ offense all season, I can’t fully buy his big Week 1 performance because it won’t be a lock to happen again. He’s a great weekly sub if you have an opening for an occasional WR3, but don’t rush out to grab him. You’ll be taking a chance every time you start him.

Darren McFadden: 95 yards, 6 passes for 55 yards and a TD

Not Buying It (Long-term) – Even a blind squirrel finds the end zone every now and then. McFadden had free reign in the running game this week against the Titans with Michael Bush still recovering from surgery on his hand, but I don’t expect him to get the majority of carries once Bush is back to full healthy. He does have a promising matchup against the Rams in Week 2, but as Bush works his way back on the field, McFadden is likely to work his way out of your heart. If his current owner is willing to sell him cheap, take that price and see what you can get out of him. But I think the better gamble is to “buy low” on Michael Bush while McFadden is getting all the attention.

Michael Vick: 16-for-24 for 175 yards and a TD, 103 rushing yards

Not Buying It (Long-term) – Whaaaa? Now that’s not a name you expected to see on the top of the pile Sunday, but when Kevin Kolb got concussed, Vick showed us why the Eagles coveted him the most this offseason of all the Eagles quarterbacks. He’s a nice security blanket for Kolb until the young guy finds his football legs, and Vick could start in Week 2 if Kolb is not cleared from his concussion.

Watch the latest updates (or follow me on Twitter) to see whether Vick gets his second chance to shine, but as long as Andy Reid insists there is no quarterback controversy, Vick is nothing more than a long-term gamble who might pay off if Kolb suffers another injury or struggles to get back on the field after this concussion. Still, you might entertain the idea of grabbing him if you have some room on your roster and no affiliation with PETA.

Notice a name I didn’t cover among the top scorers this Sunday? Feel free to spark up a conversation in the comments, but note that I assume you’ve heard of Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Chris Johnson, Miles Austin, and Chad Ochocinco, which is why they weren’t listed here.

THERE IS FOOTBALL TONIGHT

I’VE BEEN TYPING IN ALL CAPS FOR THE LAST 12 HOURS. I CAN’T STOP. TONIGHT IS FOOTBALL. THE NFL IS BACK…BACK, BABY!

OH, THERE IS A BUTTON TO TURN THIS OFF? Ahhhh, well,  that is better. I just thought it was an adrenaline thing.

Welcome to Week 1. Tonight, the Saints and the Vikings play for the honor of being the first explosive, on-top-of-it-all team and battle the letdown of being the first surprising loser of the season. I don’t think the Vikings will appreciate being the first team to disappoint.

As a fantasy GM, I’m sure you’re sweating who you’re going to start, so let’s have a mini-”Hot Hands and Cold Shoulders” huddle up.

You can start your studs. That’s perfectly acceptable; in fact, I highly recommend it.

Even though Ray Rice and Michael Turner don’t have the best matchups on paper, I have a hard time  benching either one of them. You used a first round pick to get these guys, so one would assume they are the best you have.

Look at the positive side. Rice is fairly matchup-proof with his involvement in the passing game, which is why you drafted him, and Turner could, at the very least, get to the goal line for you. That’d be sweet of him.

But if you are one of the lucky few who drafted a stacked team, which you are because you followed my advice, and you have a phenomenal matchup on your bench this week, don’t be afraid to take it.

Cadillac Williams is this week’s golden boy. He faces an unproven Cleveland defense with his young quarterback, Josh Freeman, nursing a broken thumb. I’m guessing the passing game might suffer as a result. If Freeman does pass, expect the fact that he threw less than 10 passes this preseason to show a little bit.

All of this makes Week 1 a perfect week to test the Cadillac experience. Get the leather interior. Worth it.

On the sleeper side of things, Arian Foster gets to start his breakout campaign against the Colts poor run defense, and Ryan Mathews sees the Chiefs, who won’t hold him back much this week as one of the worst defenses in the league. These two were high on plenty of radars during the peak of fantasy football drafting, so I’d expect that you drafted them to start if you got ‘em.

I really dislike Shonn Greene and Pierre Thomas more than I dislike Turner and Rice this week. Baltimore and Minnesota’s run defenses are stingy. Since Greene and Thomas may not have been first-round picks for you, you may not feel as risky starting Cadillac/Foster over them to see what your bench depth can do. I’d take that chance this week.

It also might be nice to give Greene and Pierre a chance to show you how they are going to split up the carries in New York and New Orleans. L.T. is old, but he could touch the ball far more than he needs to if Rex Ryan allows it.

Other than Rice, I’m not a big fan of the Baltimore offense this week. Revis Island and the rest of the Jets’ defense is no place to go for broke passing the ball, which will keep the Joe Flacco “sleeper” train in the station for one more week. They may open things up, but not enough for me to embrace him as a good start. He’s definitely a cold shoulder. And that means Housh, Derrick Mason and Anquan Boldin will start quietly as well.

Chicago gets to play Detroit. You know what that means. They’re all superstars. No matter how good the Detroit offense has become, their defense still has a lot to prove.

If you’re really digging deep, there are  sleepers out there. But come on, are you really going to go digging for a starting roster in Week 1? Not a good sign if you are. Not a good sign.

For the most part, I’d stick with the studs who you drafted this week. Have faith that you built a good team, and enjoy the fact that FOOTBALL IS BACK TONIGHT.

NOW I NEED ONE ORDER OF WINGS AND A TV REMOTE. STAT!